Professor Robert Schoeni's battle with ALS inspires friend to world-record swim across the English Channel

July 29, 2012
A group of six women from Michigan took turns swimming in the frigid waters of the English Channel last Friday and became the fastest group ever to cross it. According to the Detroit Free Press, the women's roundtrip swim from Dover, England, to the French coast covered 42 land miles in 18 hours, 55 minutes – bettering the world record by four minutes.

One of the swimmers, Amanda Mercer, conceived of the world-record attempt as a way to raise money and awareness for ALS after her neighbor, Ford School Professor Bob Schoeni, was diagnosed with the debilitating disease in July 2008. More commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, ALS is a rare, incurable disease that attacks the neuromuscular system. Schoeni sent an email of encouragement to Mercer last Thursday.

Mercer, who underwent surgery and subsequent chemotherapy for Stage 2 breast cancer in the months leading up to the swim, said her ability to receive treatment when there were not comparable options for Schoeni strengthened her belief in the cause.

"This has all made me realize how even more important it is to raise awareness and money for research for ALS," Mercer told the Free Press in May.

According to the group's website, the endeavor had raised more than $83,000.

The group's exploits also captured national attention on